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iPads bring schools into 21st century

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By Meaghan Downs

By Meaghan Downs
Staff writer
So long, chalkboard. Hello, iPad.
As Anderson County Public Schools integrate new technology and a new Wi-Fi network into their lesson plans and curriculum, teachers and administrators expressed their hopes to translate traditional classroom learning into 21st century methods.
The Next Generation Grant, a technology fund established last year with money from the general fund, technology department and Title II state education funds, allowed interested faculty and staff to submit their most innovative ideas to introduce new technology into their classrooms.
A committee awarded $35,000 worth of electronics, software and apps to nine recipients out of 16 who applied.
“The students we have are ‘digital natives,’” Bret Foster, chief technology officer for the school district, said. “They’ve grown up with this communication available to them.”
Foster said with the new Wi-Fi system, set to go live on every Anderson Public School campus in mid-September, students will be able to bring and use personal devices in the classroom, which gives teachers the opportunity to model good digital citizenship.
“A teacher who harnesses that power will only see benefits,” he said.  
Elaine Clark, art instructor and tech coordinator at Saffell Street Elementary, said the Next Generation grant is a chance to evolve with students, who are already intuitive when it comes to technology.
She and social studies instructor Sandra Barringer, as well as music teacher Meredith Lewis, drafted a grant so that every child would have access to an iPad.
They were awarded 10 iPads to share among their classrooms. Clark said her first lesson plan using the iPads involves an enrichment project about pop art and artist Andy Warhol using an iPad application.
“I see this as another media,” Clark said of the iPad. “This is a digital art medium.”
Clark said she hopes someday to have the means for students to create their own apps based on her curriculum.
“If we could create it and use it on the iPad, that would make it even more powerful,” she said.
Rich Nolan, social studies department chair at Anderson County High School, plans to use his awarded technology and software to create a weather station for high school students, and sees it as a springboard for a multitude of learning opportunities.
“Weather is one of the most basic contacts students have with geography and science,” Nolan said via e-mail. “It is a day to day interaction and a real-time weather station enables students to use weather data at the school and compare it to other places around the world utilizing the Internet and other weather stations.”
Hopefully, Nolan said, the high school’s weather station will be hooked into the Weather Underground site, and accessible to view by other students and the community.
Amanda Ellis, principal at Emma B. Ward Elementary, said school should be one of the first places children go to utilize technology as a tool.
“If we’re supposed to be doing 21st century learning and we’ve been in the 21st century for 11 years, we’re behind,” she said.  
A five-member committee from Emma B. Ward applied for iPads for their classrooms, and received 10 iPads with gift cards to purchase apps.
Tanya Blackhurst, librarian and one of the grant writers, said her students are already excited about the iPads, which she says will be a different way for children to experience books.  
Genna Slusher, curriculum resource instructor, said she plans to use the iPad to focus on differentiated learning.
Ellis said the new technology allows instructors to be open to the needs of students at different levels and content areas.
“There’s nobody that’s going to be excluded from it,” she said. It knocks out a lot of barriers. For each kid it will be different. That’s the beauty of it,” Ellis said.  
Foster said Anderson County is the only district in Kentucky to offer a Wi-Fi network for students K-12.
Other school districts, he said, such as Woodford County, Todd County, Owensboro Independent and Davis County have purchased technology on a one-to-one basis, with mixed results.